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2019 Patriots 7-Round Mock Draft

The NFL Draft is just over a week away and the Patriots have had a busy offseason that included the departures of key pieces of their Super Bowl winning team such as Rob Gronkowski, Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and Chris Hogan.  The Patriots currently have 12 selections and would expect them to make several trades during the draft.

This seven-round mock draft was conducted on FanSpeak.com using their mock draft simulator. I used the ‘Big Board’ rankings done by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, with ‘NFL Mock’ for team needs, on the difficult draft setting.  Some players may be ranked higher in other rankings and projections and post combine.

 

Round 1 pick 32: Dexter Lawrence, Defensive Lineman, Clemson

Defensive tackle was the Patriots most inconsistent position last season, with both Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton having their share of struggles and healthy scratches from the 46-man game day roster.

Dexter Lawrence was a big contributor to the vaunted Clemson defensive line despite missing time at the end of the season due to a PED suspension. Lawrence has great size at 6’4 340lbs and could be the force in the middle of the line the Patriots defense was desperately needing at times during the 2018 season. Lawrence could step in and be a starter and key contributor right away.

Lawrence 247sports
via 247sports.com

Round 2 pick 56: Deebo Samuel, Wide Receiver, South Carolina 

As I write this the Patriots just signed Demaryius Thomas, who I HATE as a player but like the move due to the Patriots current receiving core. Even with the signing of Thomas I would like to see the Pats add a WR early and Samuel has the ability to play both the slot and outside receiver positions and play special teams. It’s still unsure the status of Josh Gordon and if he will be eligible to play next year, and after losing Chris Hogan to the Carolina Panthers depth and talent at the wide receiver position is a major area of need. New England held an official private workout with Samuel last week where Samuel later posted a video on Instagram outside Gillette Stadium saying “Hey Billy. I’ll see you in a month, my man,” which could mean there’s interest on both sides and the private workout and meeting went well.

Samuel GamecocksOnline
via gamecocksonline.com

Round 2 pick 64: Zach Allen, EDGE Rusher, Boston College

The Patriots added Michael Bennett in a trade with the Eagles, and also lost arguably their best defensive player in Trey Flowers to the Lions which makes defensive end still an area of need. Allen has good size that gives him versatility to play the interior and exterior of the defensive line and plays well as a pass rusher and run stopper. Allen had great production with 15 tackles for loss in 2018.

Zach-Allen Getty
via gettyimages.com

Round 3 pick 73: Jace Sternberger, Tight End, Texas A&M

The Patriots offense took a massive blow with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. I liked the signing of Austin-Sefarian Jenkins but would still like to see the tight end position addressed during the draft. Jace Sternberger had a great 2018 season, his first at Texas A&M after transferring from JUCO, with 48 catches for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sternberger only had one year of production which could be a red flag to teams, and is essentially just a receiving tight end and doesn’t offer much as a blocker. Sternberger’s size and skill set would help the Patriots offense stretch the field. Sternberger is also a player who had a private workout with the Patriots.

sternberger
via kbtx.com

Round 3 Pick 97: Taylor Rapp, Safety, Washington

I would be surprised if Rapp was available at this point in the draft, but if he is would be a great pick for New England. Rapp is a similar type player to Patrick Chung, who just signed a contract extension with the Patriots, as someone who can cover backs and tight ends in the passing game, and can also play close to the line of scrimmage and is good in run support. Rapp is someone who could contribute now as well as sit and learn and be the safety of the future for the Patriots.

Rapp 247sports.com
via 247sports.com

Round 3 pick 101: Jarrett Stidham, Auburn, Quarterback

Stidham is one of several quarterbacks the Patriots have had in for private workouts. I would love for the Patriots to be able to take West Virginia QB Will Grier, but he was already off the board in this simulation. Stidham had a good 2017 but struggled some in 2018, but has good different skill sets with his mobility, quick release, and being able to throw on the run with good accuracy. Skills that Josh McDaniels seems to value when drafting quarterbacks, and could be someone McDaniels likes as a potential QB of the future for the likely head coach of the future.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida
via theathletic.com

Round 4 pick 134: David Sills, West Virginia, Wide Receiver

Sills is a big body, outside receiver who was a great red zone threat during his time at West Virginia. Sills was a second team All-American in 2017 and led the country with 18 touchdown receptions, and was a third team All-American in 2018 finishing second in the country with 15 touchdown receptions. Sills is a true down field receiver who could help stretch the Patriots offense and be a valuable piece in the red zone.

Sills smokingmusket.com
via smokingmusket.com

Round 6 pick 205: Bryce Love, Stanford, Running Back

Running back is not an area of need for the Patriots after selecting Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and having backs James White and Rex Burkhead on the roster, but being able to grab someone like Love at this point in the draft would be a steal. Love was a Heisman finalist several times during his years at Stanford and put up great numbers before tearing his ACL on the final play of his college career. The Patriots could select Love and place him on Injured Reserve to let him fully recover and team up with Michel to be be a part of the offense for the 2020 season and beyond.

Love Yahoo Sports
via sports.yahoo.com

Round 7 pick 239: Mitch Hyatt, Clemson, Offensive Tackle

Hyatt was a four year starter at Clemson and was a part of two National Championship winning teams and was the anchor of Clemson’s line during that time. The Patriots lost LaAdrian Waddle and Trent Brown in free agency and could use depth at tackle, especially with last years first round pick Isaiah Wynn set to be the starter after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles.

Hyatt greenvilleonline
via greenvilleonline.com

 

Round 7 pick 243: Alex Bars, Guard, Notre Dame

Bars missed most of the 2018 season after suffering an ACL and MCL injury against Stanford. Bars has good size at 6’6 315lbs and could give flexibility at both guard and tackle.

 

Round 7 pick 246: Kingsley Keke, Defensive Line, Texas A&M

Keke has the ability and skill set to go with his size to play both defensive tackle and defensive end, after dropping 20 pounds to be more of an edge player. Keke had a breakout senior year with 51 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. Keke is another player who had a private workout with the Patriots and provides the versatility that the Patriots value.

Keke 12thman.com
via 12thman.com

Round 7 pick 252: Justin Hollins, Edge Rusher, Oregon

I don’t see the Patriots using all 12 draft picks that they currently have and could package some picks to move around the board, but projecting as they currently stand the Patriots add depth at pass rusher with their second of four seventh round picks. Hollins has good size at 6’4 240lbs with good speed for his size that would allow him to play special teams and potentially be a situational pass rusher.

 

 

 

 

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2019 Patriots 7-Round Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition

With the NFL Combine set to start February 26th and compensatory picks being handed out it’s time to look at what the Patriots can add in the draft to replace some pieces they will lose in free agency. The Patriots currently have 12 draft picks and would expect them to package picks to move around the draft board, but projected as if they would use all 12 picks.

This seven-round mock draft was conducted on FanSpeak.com using their mock draft simulator. I used the ‘Big Board’ rankings done by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, with ‘NFL Mock’ for team needs, on the difficult draft setting.  Some players may be ranked higher in other rankings and projections and post combine.

Round 1 pick 32: Dexter Lawrence, Defensive Lineman, Clemson

Defensive tackle was the Patriots most inconsistent position last season, with both Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton having their share of struggles and healthy scratches from the 46-man game day roster. Brown and Shelton are both set to be free agents and wouldn’t expect New England to re-sign either leaving defensive tackle an even more important position to address in the draft.

Dexter Lawrence was a big contributor to the vaunted Clemson defensive line despite missing time at the end of the season due to a PED suspension. Lawrence has great size at 6’4 340lbs and could be the force in the middle of the line the Patriots defense was desperately needing at times during the 2018 season. If Lawrence is still on the board at pick 32 the Patriots should run to the stage to select him and not give any second thoughts

Lawrence LA Times
via lattimes.com

 

Round 2 pick 56: Riley Ridley, Wide Receiver, Georgia

The Patriots receiver depth chart for 2019 is currently Julian Edelman and Braxton Berrios. Wide Receiver is a major area of need for the Patriots as I expect Chris Hogan to depart in free agency and would expect the team to try to re-sign Phillip Dorsett or Cordarrelle Patterson to cheap deals if given the opportunity.

Adding Riley Ridley would give Tom Brady an elite young talent who can play both inside and outside and someone who has great route running ability. to go along with size at 6’2 200lbs. Ridley’s brother Calvin, first round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2018, had a great rookie season and I could see Riley emulating that success in the Patriots offense. Even with free agency and the potential of a Josh Gordon return it would be smart for the Patriots to address the wide receiver position early in the draft, and selecting Ridley would give the a young receiver that the team could build around in the future and give the team another Georgia product after selecting both Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel in the first round last year.

Ridley hogshaven
via hogshaven.com

 

Round 2 pick 64: Jaylon Ferguson, Edge Rusher, Louisiana Tech

The Patriots could face a huge blow to their defense if they lose Trey Flowers in free agency. Even if they get Flowers back the team should look to add a pass rusher with Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers not meeting expectations.

in 2018, Jaylon Ferguson racked up 17.5 sacks his senior season and had 45 total sacks over his four seasons at LA. Tech, setting an NCAA record. Drafting Ferguson will give the Patriots a true pass rushed opposite Flowers (assuming he’s back) that they desperately need. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Ferguson end up as a first round draft pick, especially with a strong showing at the combine.

Ferguson fanbuzz
via fanbuzz.com

 

Round 3 pick 73: Jace Sternberger, Tight End, Texas A&M

It seems more and more likely that Rob Gronkowski will be returning which will be great for the Patriots offense. Even if Gronk does indeed come back and not retire addressing the tight end position is something the Patriots need to do this draft class, with Dwayne Allen and his $7.3 million cap hit likely to be gone and getting no production from both Allen and Jacob Hollister over the past two seasons adding a backup tight end is a must.

Jace Sternberger had a great 2018 season, his first at Texas A&M after transferring from JUCO, with 48 catches for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sternberger only had one year of production which could be a red flag to teams, and is essentially just a receiving tight end and doesn’t offer much as a blocker. Adding Sternberger would give the Patriots offense someone who could stretch the field and take away some double teams from Gronkowski when on the field at the same time and become a formidable passing option in the Patriots offense.

sternberger
via kbtx.com

 

Round 3 pick 97: Dakota Allen, Linebacker, Texas Tech

Kyle Van Noy had a fantastic 2018 for the Patriots and the team will be getting Ja’Whaun Bentley back after missing the 2018 season after being placed on Injured Reserve, which will help the linebacking core in 2019, but you can never have enough young, versatile talent at the linebacker position.

Former “Last Chance U” star Dakota Allen made the most of the second chance he got at Texas Tech, picking up 162 tackles for loss with 11.5 tackles for loss over two seasons. Allen could fall in the draft due to some red flags that led to his dismissal at Texas Tech his first time around, but his play on the field and no off-field issues following his return to Tech should lead to Allen being taken in the mid-rounds of the draft.

Allen Getty
via gettyimages.com

 

Round 3 pick 101: Isaiah Buggs, Alabama, Defensive Lineman

With the Patriots having several different holes to fill adding a versatile defensive lineman like Buggs, who can play both at tackle and end with his size at 6’5 290lbs. During his senior season at Alabama Buggs had 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Adding Buggs would give the Patriots depth along the whole defensive line and someone who can contribute as a rookie.

Buggs rolltide
via RollTide.com

 

Round 4 pick 134: Hunter Renfrow, Wide Receiver, Clemson

The Patriots take their second wide receiver of the draft taking one of Clemson’s all-time leading receivers Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow worked out of the slot during his time at Clemson catching passes from DeShaun Watson, Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence and constantly finding ways to get open and make big plays. Renfrow could be in line to be the next great Patriots slot receiver, as well as be a contributing piece to the Patriots offense right away.

Renfrom sportingnews
via sportingnews.com

 

Round 6 pick 205: Amani Hooker, Safety, Iowa

With both Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung set to turn 32 before the start of the 2019 season the Patriots could look to add another safety to groom and even stash on practice squad if needed. The Patriots picked up former Raiders second round pick Obi Melifonwu during the season and played limited snaps on special teams and could have a larger role on defense in 2019 and going forward. Hooker has versatility being able to play both safety and cornerback who has great ball skills and was a second team All-American in 2018.

Round 7 pick 239: Bryce Love, Running Back, Stanford

Running back is not an area of need for the Patriots after selecting Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and having backs James White and Rex Burkhead on the roster, but being able to grab someone like Love at this point in the draft would be a steal. Love was a Heisman finalist several times during his years at Stanford and put up great numbers before tearing his ACL on the final play of his college career. The Patriots could select Love and place him on Injured Reserve to let him fully recover and team up with Michel to be be a part of the offense for the 2020 season and beyond.

Love Yahoo Sports
via sports.yahoo.com

 

Round 7 pick 243: Justin Hollins, Edge Rusher, Oregon

I don’t see the Patriots using all 12 draft picks that they currently have and could package some picks to move around the board, but projecting as they currently stand the Patriots add depth at pass rusher with their second of four seventh round picks. Hollins has good size at 6’4 240lbs with good speed for his size that would allow him to play special teams.

Round 7 pick 246: Alex Bars, Guard, Notre Dame 

Bars missed most of the 2018 season after suffering an ACL and MCL injury against Stanford. Bars has good size at 6’6 315lbs and could give flexibility at both guard and tackle.

Round 7 pick 252: Clifton Duck, Cornerback, Appalachian State

Cornerback is probably the strongest position the Patriots have and one that they shouldn’t need to address during the draft. Eric Rowe is set to become a free agent and likely won’t be back, while both Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones are all set to become free agents who I expect to be back with the team, especially with Jones being a restricted free-agent. The Patriots will also be getting second-round pick Duke Dawson back who missed all of last year due to injury. For some reason if the Patriots lose either McCourty or Jones, or both they could look to add a corner later in the draft. Duck doesn’t have great size at only 5’10 175lbs, but has great ball skills having 12 interceptions over three years at Appalachian State and projects as a slot corner at the next level.

 

Preseason Game Four Preview: The Battle For A Roster Spot

The Patriots will take on the Giants tonight in the teams preseason finale before starting up the regular season. Before the start of the regular season comes roster cut-downs, which takes place Saturday, where the Patriots have to cut down the 90-man roster down to 53. The team has already made some cuts releasing wide receiver Eric Decker and safety Eddie Pleasant earlier in the week. It is assumed that most, if not all starters will not play tonight leaving bottom of the roster and roster bubble guys to show what they can do, and make one final push to make the final 53-man roster.

NFL: AUG 09 Preseason - Redskins at Patriots
via gettyimages.com

Riley McCarron and Devin Lucien

The Patriots wide receiving corps has gotten a lot of attention this summer as it is one of the weakest the team has had in recent years. With Julian Edelman slated to miss the first four weeks of the season due to suspension, the Patriots seem to only have three wide receivers who are locks to make the roster and contribute early on in the season in Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Only having three wide receivers is weak enough as it is, but having Dorsett as your number two and Patterson at your three is a sign of concern for many different reasons. I find it hard to believe that the Patriots would only carry three receivers and would add a fourth if not strictly for depth purposes incase of injury and expect that battle to come down to Riley McCarron and Devin Lucien. Both guys had good training camps, but have gotten limited action in the preseason so far. Lucien had a good performance against the Redskins having four catches for 71 yards, and then had no catches in the following two games in very limited action. Meanwhile, McCarron had no receptions against Washington and only one catch against Philadelphia and then four catches for 49 yards against Carolina and had gotten some snaps on the field with Brady, as well as contributed as a returner on special teams.   If it comes down to these two I would expect McCarron to make the roster due to his special teams contributions, as well as a better fit into the offense as a true slot receiver. I would also expect the Patriots to try moving rookie Braxton Berrios to the practice squad to develop more after not playing in the previous two preseason games.

davis 247
via 247sports.com

Keionta Davis

The defensive line is one of the biggest strengths and area of depth that the Patriots have, which makes it even harder fight for Davis to earn a roster spot. Davis has seen a lot of reps with the first team defense during the preseason as a situational pass rusher. Davis shined against the Eagles picking up 1.5 sacks and applying constant pressure. Davis was then quiet the following week against the Panthers where the Patriots seemed to struggle in every area of the game. In a game where I would not expect to see Trey Flowers or Adrian Clayborn, Davis should get plenty of opportunity to show why he is deserving of a roster spot.

B64Q2220.JPG
via bostonherald.com

Cyrus Jones and Jason McCourty

By now everyone knows the struggle Cyrus Jones had his rookie season and then tore his ACL prior to the start of his second season. Jones got his first action of the preseason last week where he contributed as on defense and as a returner. The talent is still there with Jones and has yet to be seen as both a corner and returner and could be too early to give up on the third year player. McCourty was one of the teams big offseason acquisitions, and has looked terrible up to this point in the preseason. After getting beat for a bad touchdown against the Eagles in week 2, McCourty played at both corner and safety last week against Carolina where he again struggled. As it looks McCourty might have a better shot at making the roster as a safety rather than a corner due to the depth the team has and how bad he has looked there. I want to see both of these guys get a lot of reps tonight as I believe they are potentially fighting against one another for a spot on the final roster. Something that wouldn’t be surprising is if the Patriots did release McCourty prior to the final 53-man roster cutdown and then brought him back at a lower salary.

NFL: AUG 16 Preseason - Eagles at Patriots
via gettyimages.com

Offensive Line

With the news of first round pick Isaiah Wynn tearing his Achilles and likely being out for the year the Patriots are going to have to look elsewhere to fill the fourth offensive tackle position. The team has a number of journeyman and castoff veterans who are now fighting for that spot including Ulrick John, Matt Tobin, Cole Croston and Luke Bowanko. I give the upper edge to John, who has been a veteran in the league and had flexibility to be able to play both inside and outside on the offensive line. Croston spent time with the Patriots last year and due to familiarity between him and the team could earn the spot.

Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection

The Patriots have played two preseason games so far and have had several players stand out in an attempt to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. Many things can change over the next few weeks and the final two preseason games, but here is my projection for the Patriots week 1 53-man roster.

 

Quarterback: (2) Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

No surprised here with only Brady and Hoyer making the roster at quarterback. Etling hasn’t shown near enough to be considered for a spot on the roster, but would expect the Patriots to keep Etling around on the practice squad if no one else claims him.

 

Runningback: (6) James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden, James Develin

Another position group with no real surprises. At this point the biggest question at the running back position is the health of first round pick Sony Michel, who hasn’t practiced in about two weeks with a knee injury. Jeremy Hill has far outplayed Mike Gillislee in the first two preseason games and looks deserving of a roster spot.

Decker 247 sports
via 247sports.com

Wide Receiver: (5) Julian Edelman*, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater, Eric Decker

This is the weakest wide receiving core the Patriots have had in some time. Outside of Chris Hogan and Matthew Slater, who is used mostly on special teams, there is no real lock for anyone else to make the roster with Edelman suspended for the first four weeks of the season. Dorsett was on the team last year and has gotten reps with the first team during the preseason and would expect to make the team. Patterson has shown some flashes on offense, as well as offers value in special teams as a returner. The last receiver spot will likely come down to Eric Decker or Kenny Britt. Decker has struggled in the preseason and training camp, but I give him the edge over Britt due to the fact that Britt hasn’t been able to get on the field due to injuries. Devin Lucien, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron are names to watch for who could make a push for a roster spot during the final two preseason games.

 

Tight End: (3) Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen

No real surprises here as I believe all three of these players are locks to make the roster. The only way I could see this changing would be if the Patriots want to save money and get rid of Dwayne Allen and his $5 million salary and cap hit.

Trent Brown espn
via ESPN.com

Offensive Lineman: (8) Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, La’Adrian Waddle, Ted Karras, Ulrick John

The loss of first round pick Isaiah Wynn hurts the depth of the offensive line group, as it was beginning to look like Wynn was going to contribute early for the Patriots. Trent Brown has looked phenomenal so far and looks like he could be an upgrade to Nate Solder, who the Patriots lost in free agency. I believe the first seven guys listed are locks as they were all members of the team last year outside of Brown. Ulrick John has looked decent in limited action so far in the preseason and offers flexibility being able to play at tackle and the interior of the offensive line. Guys like Cole Croston and Luke Bowanko could be in play for the final offensive lineman spot.

Masslive DEs
via masslive.com

Defensive End: (5) Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise Jr., Keionta Davis

Clayborn, Rivers and Wise have all played really well so far in preseason and throughout training camp and are all locks to make the roster, as well as Trey Flowers. Keionta Davis is someone who Belichick seems to like and has spoken very highly of. Davis played a lot in the Patriots second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and did a good job of generating pressure. Davis has the flexibility to play inside and outside and generate pressure from both, and has an opportunity to be a name people wouldn’t expect to make the 53-man roster.

 

Defensive Tackle: (4) Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy

Shelton has looked great so far this summer and looks to be a big contributor to the Patriots defense. Both Shelton and Brown are in the final year of their contracts and look to have big years. Both Butler and Guy played well last year and offer flexibility being able to play all over the defensive line, with Butler being more of a pass rusher and Guy more of a run stopper. Vincent Valentine is currently on the roster bubble and could push someone like Keionta Davis off the roster.

 

Linebacker: (6) Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon King

Hightower and Van Noy were obvious locks going into the season and have played well in limited action so far. The name of the preseason Ja’Whaun Bentley also looks like a lock after playing fantastic in the Patriots two preseason games so far, has been all over the field and returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Eagles. Bentley has been getting reps with the first team defense and if he continues to improve and translate his preseason success to the regular season will be a big contributor to the Patriots defense. Flowers and Roberts have been apart of the Patriots defense and expect them to make the team, as well as King who is used on special teams.

jmac nesn
via nesn.com

Cornerback: (6) Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones

The Patriots have a lot of bodies at the cornerback position and could go in many different ways. Jason McCourty was a big name acquisition this offseason but so far his play hasn’t translated to the buzz around him going into camp, and got beat badly on a touchdown last week against the Eagles. I expect him to stick around but am beginning to question the impact and role he could play. I think the real question comes with Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones, both who started off on the PUP list . Jonathan Jones played well last year as the teams primary slot corner before being injured, and then the team selected Duke Dawson in the second round of the NFL Draft, who was primarily a slot corner in college and has looked good in training camp so far and has been dealing with a small injury himself. Cyrus Jones was terrible on defense and special teams his rookie year, then missed his second year after tearing his ACL. I think it would be too early to move on from Cyrus after only seeing what he could do for one year really.

 

Safety: (5) Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Eddie Pleasant

McCourty, Chung, and Harmon are all locks and key members of the Patriots defense, as well as Ebner being a lock as a core member of the special teams. Eddie Pleasant has played decently in the first two preseason games, and I just absolutely hate Jordan Richards and will not give him a spot on my projection. So congrats Eddie Pleasant for not being Jordan Richards.

 

Specialists: (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona

No surprises here as this has been the core the past few years and haven’t seen much out of Corey Bojorquez.

 

Patriots Training Camp 2018: Day One Thoughts and Observations

The rain couldn’t keep Patriots Nation away today as the Patriots opened up for their first  training camp session of the 2018 NFL Season. As always quarterback Tom Brady received a standing and cheering ovation as he made his way to the practice field, as well as wide receiver Julian Edelman, who missed the 2017 season due to a torn ACL, also receiving a loud ovation from the fans as he walked onto the field for the first time.

IMG_6557

For the first two days of training camp players aren’t in full pads and there’s no contact allowed which can make it tough to truly tell how the players look, there were definitely some players who stood out more than others. Two players who looked really well today were tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister. Gronkowski looking good shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point as he’s the best tight end in the league when healthy. In simulated 11 on 11 drills Gronkowski was able to get free in the back of the end zone numerous times and catching everything that Brady threw to him. Hollister was someone who really impressed me today; making a tremendous catch in the back of the end zone that was contested by Eric Rowe and a perfect pass by Brady almost right in from of me. Later on in practice on the other side of the practice field he made another great catch in the back corner of the end zone from Brady which drew an applause from the crowd.

Gronk Hollistr develin.JPG

Someone who I wanted to keep an eye on today was rookie running back Sony Michel, who the Patriots selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. . Michel saw a lot of action with the first team offense during 11 on 11 drills and scored on a nice screen pass from Brady. The Patriots have a crowded backfield with Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, and Jeremy Hill; and can’t wait to see how Michel looks throughout the rest of training camp and the preseason and see if he can translate his success in college to the NFL.

Michel.JPG

While Michel was seeing some time with the first team offense today, the Patriots other first round pick Isaiah Wynn was running with the second team starting at left tackle. Like I’ve said it’s tough to tell how some players look during the first few days of training camp with no contact, this is especially true for offensive lineman. While Wynn started at left tackle with the second unit Trent Brown was the one taking reps at left tackle with the starters. The Patriots made a draft day trade to acquire Brown from the San Francisco 49ers, where he started at right tackle last season.

Something that I’m going to be paying attention to over the next couple weeks is the potential battle for a roster spot at wide receiver. With Julian Edelman suspended the first four games of the season, and the rumors of the Patriots moving on from Malcolm Mitchell look more and more true the wide receiver position could be one of need for the Patriots. After losing Danny Amendola to the Miami Dolphins this offseason the Patriots signed veteran Jordan Matthews, who on the outside looking in would seem to be a lock to make the final 53-man roster. The Patriots also re-signed Kenny Britt who spent some time with the Patriots towards the end of last season and the team likes apparently, who is starting off training camp on the PUP list. The team also has Phillip Dorsett who was with the team last season, but who I’m going to be watching are Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios. McCarron spent time on the Houston Texans practice squad last year and has drawn some comparisons to Wes Welker, who coached him last season while in Houston. McCarron looked very quick and explosive during kickoff return drills and looks like a prototypical Patriots slot receiver. Berrios was a sixth round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Miami, and while undersized at only 5’8-5’9 was a big time playmaker during his time with the Hurricanes. Both players were rotating around with the third team offense primarily, as well as returning kicks which could be the key for one of these guys to fight for a potential roster spot.

MAtthews HogN.JPG

 

Day one is in the books and there will be plenty more to look for and see over the next couple weeks of training camp and preseason. But one thing thats clear is that the best time of the year is upon us as Patriots football is back!

 

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: A Defensive Line With Tons of Potential

The start to Patriots Training Camp is finally almost upon us as it is set to start in just under a week. One of the biggest issues the Patriots had at times last year was at defensive line, most notably in the Super Bowl where they couldn’t generate any pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, as well as being unable to stop the Eagles in the running game. The Patriots will return some of their main core on the defensive line, such as Trey Flowers, Malcolm Brown, and Deatrich Wise Jr., as welcome in a few new faces.

One of the new names that people should expect to see a lot from this season is defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Patriots this offseason after spending the previous three seasons in Atlanta. In 2017 Clayborn finished with a career-high 9.5 sacks, and while that total looks good on the surface it’s worth noting that six of his sacks came in one game going against the Dallas Cowboys and backup left tackle Chaz Green. A former first-round pick Clayborn is a player who so far has not lived up to his full potential and hype around him following his career at Iowa, partly due to playing in three games or less in two of his four seasons while in Tampa Bay due to injury. If Clayborn can stay on the field and continue to build off maybe his best season as a pro in last season I would expect him to be a big contributor on the Patriots defensive line opposite Trey Flowers.

 

Another new face that should make a big impact on the defensive line this season is Danny Shelton, whom the he Patriots acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns this offseason. Shelton is a former 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Browns, the same draft where the Patriots selected Malcolm Brown in the first round.

 

Both Brown and Shelton are true run stuffing defensive tackles and while Shelton had a down year in 2017, Brown is coming off his best year as a member of the Patriots in 2017. Having two big defensive tackles in Brown and Shelton in the middle of your line with a combination of Flowers, Wise, Clayborn, Lawrence Guy, and Derek Rivers as edge rushers, as well as having Vincent Valentine and Adam Butler to play in the middle,  gives the Patriots lots of flexibility on all three downs and in all types of situations. If players are able to stay healthy and play up to their potential this Patriots defensive line is one that offers tons of flexibility and can cause problems for opposing offenses.

 

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Jordan Matthews signing more pivotal with possible Edelman suspension

One of the somewhat under the radar moves that the Patriots made this offseason was signing wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Matthews reportedly had other offers worth more money but took a one-year one million dollar deal with the Patriots on a “prove it” type deal, which now looks like it is should pay off even more for both the Patriots and Mathews.

Matthews has been somewhat disappointing in his brief NFL career after being selected in the second round out of Vanderbilt by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 NFL Draft. Matthews best year came in 2015 where he finished with 85 receptions with 997 yards with 8 touchdown receptions. Coming out of college Matthews was best utilized as a slot receiver, where he was used primarily in 2015 before being moved to more of an outside receiver in 2016 where his numbers diminished slightly. Matthews was traded to Buffalo in the 2017 offseason in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby, where he was plagued by injuries and finished with only 25 catches on the year.

With or without an Edelman suspension Matthews has the potential to put up big numbers for the Patriots as the teams number three receiver following the departure of Danny Amendola to Miami. Matthews is best utilized in the slot despite his size at 6’3 205 pounds and has the skill to step right in if he can learn the playbook and gain a familiarity with quarterback Tom Brady. Brady skipped the teams voluntary team workouts but reported this week for mandatory mini camp, and with the possible Edelman suspension looming it is pivotal that he gets in as much work possible with Matthews now and during training camp which is set to kick off at the end of July.